A North Carolina Superior Court Judge will hold a hearing on Tuesday to consider a request filed by Republican Mark Harris to declare him the winner of the uncertified election in the state’s 9th Congressional District.
Attorneys for Harris filed a petition for a writ for mandamus and appeal for failure of the State Board to act in Wake County Superior Court earlier this month, asking the court to order the newly organized North Carolina Board of Elections to certify him the winner of the November 6 election in which the election boards of the eight counties that comprise the district certified him to be the winner by 905 votes over the Democratic candidate, Dan McCready.
In the filing, attorneys for Harris asked the Court:
…to issue a Writ of Mandamus directing the North Carolina Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, through its Executive Director Kimberly Strach . . . to authenticate and certify Dr. Harris as the winner of the 2018 North Carolina Ninth Congressional District (“9th District”) election, because the counties in said District previously authenticated the results of said election and no protest was filed related to the conduct of the November 6, 2018 election in the 9th District.
“As such,” the filing continued, the State Board was required by statute to ministerially authenticate said results by November 27, 2018, and certify the same by December 3, 2018.”
The contentiousness of the process of determining the winner of the race, which began on November 28 when the now extinct North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement refused to certify the election results, continued into 2019, as the Charlotte Observer reported last Tuesday:
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes accused elections officials of “one stalling pattern after another” in a meeting with reporters in Charlotte.
“When there (isn’t) evidence that irregularities would change the outcome of the election, Mark Harris should be certified,” Hayes said. “If they had discovered a shred of evidence, they would have made it public.”
State law, however, allows for the board to call for a new election if “Irregularities or improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness.” The McCready campaign, in a legal brief filed Monday in Wake County Superior Court, called that finding “an inevitable conclusion” to the case.
The twists and turns in this contested election have been numerous and unpredictable since November 28, when the old North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement refused to certify the election results, as Breitbart News reported:
In the case of North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (NCBE) refused to certify the election of Harris–who was deemed by election boards in the eight counties that comprise the district to have won the election by 905 votes– on November 28, and subsequently failed to complete an investigation and make a certification of an election winner prior to its expiration as a legal entity on December 28.
The stated reason given by the NCBE for its refusal to certify Harris as the winner was allegations of absentee ballot irregularities in Bladen County, North Carolina by Leslie Dowless, who had been recruited by the consulting firm managing Harris’s campaign to handle get-out-the-vote efforts. Dowless has a long history of get-out-the-vote activities in North Carolina, and in particular in Bladen County, much of which was on behalf of Democratic campaigns.
A law enacted after the North Carolina General Assembly overrode a veto by Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper establishes a new state board, known simply as the North Carolina Board of Elections, with the authority to certify elections in the state, but that body will not be legally authorized until January 31. The new board may not be properly constituted and able to conduct business until after that date, as the law requires the chairman of the state’s Republican Party and the chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party to nominate board members, from which the governor must pick five members–at least two of whom must come from each party.
If the Superior Court judge rules in favor of Harris, the decision is expected to be appealed up to the North Carolina Supreme Court, likely on an expedited basis.
If the decision in that expedited appeal is in favor of Harris, key leaders of the Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives have signaled that they may not seat Harris without holding their own evidentiary hearing and making their own determination as to whether to seat Harris, as they are allowed to do under the Constitution.